Partnering with Your Board

By Shelly Landau posted 10-07-2021 05:10 PM

Partnering With Your Board, a blog by Shelly Landau, Tuition Assistance Concierge at Lancaster Country Day School

A lifetime ago, I was a member of the Board of Trustees of Lancaster Country Day School and served as Board Chair for two years. It was an exciting time for me personally, and for our school in terms of growth. I was the Development Chair and Enrollment Committee Chair during that time.

Fast forward to today, a time when our school has the highest tuition in our marketplace and a time where we need to offer more financial aid to our families in order to maintain optimum enrollment. In my new role as Tuition Assistance Concierge, I now see the life of the school from the front-line, helping with the tuition assistance for our new and returning families. And I love it!

What I want to share are ways that we, financial aid, enrollment, business, and admissions folk can proactively share strategic information with our Enrollment Committee and Boards. The best way to highlight this is to summarize how your school compares with national trends. This is strategic information that your Board wants to know, and it is fairly easy to compile. Here are the recent trends and how to quickly share them with your Board:

Trend #1: Applications for Tuition Assistance were not as high as the years following the 2008 financial crisis. That was true for us! To calculate, just look at your data from 2009-2010 and you will hopefully see the same results. Your Board will be happy to know that though times are rough, we have seen worse in terms of financial aid application increases.

Trend #2: “Many” full pay families will convert to one of your financial aid families due to the pandemic. Again, this is pretty easy to measure. Calculate how many of your full pay families make that tough phone call to ask for aid, apply, and then qualify for tuition assistance. In our case, we did not see this happen at all (yet), though we may see it next year or even the year following. That is my message to the Board: For now, everything seems stable for our full pay families, but we will keep our eye on this.

Trend #3: According to SSS applications from October 2, 2020 through March 1, 2021, the national average impact due to COVID-19 was a negative impact of 19%. In order to calculate this for your school, you look at the COVID Emergency Fund that you allocated based upon the documented needs of your families. Prior to processing the actual need, I estimated our school’s impact to be in the area of 18% (or pretty close to the national average). I quantified this based upon the types of professions of our current school families. I am happy to report that our impact was 6%, thank goodness. Overall, our parents fared better than I predicted.

Trend #4: It was estimated that the COVID Emergency Fund would be large with “many '' families needing emergency aid. Based upon the NAIS Snapshot Survey in October 2020, a little over half of the schools surveyed had created an Emergency COVID fund. Our school is in the lower one-third of school COVID aid pool. 53% of the schools allocated more than $100K in COVID aid, with 21% allocating over $250K for COVID emergency aid. My school has allocated less than $2000 COVID aid per student that received emergency aid. Again, this is a straightforward value to calculate and compare to schools across the country. No matter where you may fall, it is important that your Board know this impact from the pandemic.

Trend #5: That we will see more tuition assistance applications from our families in the higher income levels. Yes, we are seeing some of this, primarily in families with multiple children in tuition charging schools, when the parents have high student loan debt (over $100K), and due to the financial impact of the pandemic. To show this impact, use the income comparison bar chart from past years and compare to this year. This national data is from SSS. It shows a comparison of the past two years. What it tells is that there is an increase in Tuition Assistance among the high-income families.

Create the same type of chart over two years using your own data. This way you can tell which income groups are growing or declining.

Trend #6:  Lower- and Middle-income families are dropping out of the Tuition Assistance pool, compromising, and shifting the economic diversity goals of the school. This is a trend that really challenges us and has begun to happen. In fact, we have seen some of our lower income families, those with high aid, withdraw from our school. We believe we will see this more going forward, and that our economic diversity will be compromised. Our Board needs to know this.

Trend #7: International student visas plummeted during the pandemic. This was true for everyone, but we now see things on the international student front coming back to normal (thank goodness.)

My advice to you, as a former Board member now an employee on the front line, is you should compare where you stand in relation to the national trends. Even if the news is bad news, it is better for your Board to have it in their sights. They will thank you for this.

Shelly Landau

Shelly Landau
Tuition Assistance Concierge
Lancaster Country Day School